Chris Leslie is challenged over his by-election hypocrisy on Question Time

Independent Chris Leslie and Labour's Andy McDonald
Joshua Funnell

The scrutiny of Labour’s quitters and the new Independent Group is intensifying. And on 21 February’s edition of BBC Question Time (BBCQT), Chris Leslie was challenged over their refusal to call by-elections and the hypocrisy of simultaneously supporting a People’s Vote.

Challenged from the start

Leslie appeared on BBCQT replacing his newly independent ex-Tory colleague Anna Soubry. The austerity-supporting Soubry pulled out for unknown reasons at the last minute.

But this didn’t mean the panel, or the audience, went any easier on Leslie. The first question from the audience set the tone:

Even Fiona Bruce, the BBCQT chair, commented to Leslie:

You say by-elections are not the priority; we had so many questions on whether there should be a by-election.

Challenged by the panel and audience

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald claimed Leslie and his colleagues were duty-bound to call by-elections:

Leslie gave the following justification for not calling a by-election. He even mentioned how he would like to give people a “public vote” on Brexit:

But not all viewers were convinced by Leslie’s “national crisis” excuse:

Columnist for Spiked magazine Ella Whelan was also on the panel. She addressed how independents like Leslie have a selective love for democracy when it comes to Brexit:

Then the audience started to challenge Leslie too:

Independents challenged left, right and centre over by-elections

The problem with the independents is that they do not have a democratic mandate. And this problem is chasing them everywhere they go in the media. Angela Smith suffered this excruciating encounter with Sky News’ Kay Burley on the subject:

And Soubry suffered a similar grilling by a caller during an appearance on LBC:

A matter of democratic principle

The issue of by-elections has raised many issues about British democracy. Liz Bates of the Yorkshire Post spoke about voter disenfranchisement on BBC Newsnight:

And as one member of the BBCQT audience stated, this whole debate highlights the failings of our first-past-the-post voting system:

Journalist Matt Turner had a more optimistic take on the angry debate the Independent Group’s behaviour has provoked:

BBCQT has shown that the issue of by-elections isn’t going away for the Independent Group. Let’s hope this stimulates further debate challenging the undemocratic British state. But as The Canary has argued previously, the Labour quitters seem too gutless to call by-elections anytime soon.

Featured image via YouTube – Donald TV

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us